FWP seeking input on proposed project to benefit westslope cutthroat trout in Flathead tributaries
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: February 3, 2023

KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public input on efforts to benefit native westslope cutthroat trout in tributaries in the Middle and North forks of the Flathead River near Coram in Flathead County.

FWP is proposing to continue removing and relocating hybrid and rainbow trout from the mouths and channels of Abbot, Sekokini, Rabe, Ivy, and Third creeks to Pine Grove Community Pond in Kalispell. This effort would reduce threats to westslope cutthroat trout persistence while still providing angling opportunities.

The introduction of non-native species like rainbow trout seriously threatens native cutthroat trout through hybridization (interbreeding) and competition for resources. Currently, genetically unaltered westslope cutthroat trout exist in less than 10% of their historic range in the U.S. and less than 20% of their historic range in Canada.

The proposed project would incorporate lessons learned from past projects in FWP’s ongoing effort to conserve native westslope cutthroat trout by reducing negative impacts from non-native rainbow and hybrid trout in the affected river system.

This proposed project would continue previous similar efforts dating back to 2013. To date, more westslope cutthroat trout have been caught by FWP in and near streams targeted for hybrid trout removal since this work began. Additionally, average angler catch rates for cutthroat trout in the upper Flathead River have increased over time while rainbow trout catch rates have remained the same.

FWP would continue to monitor the efficacy of the proposed project by tracking the rate that hybridization continues to spread in the affected river system, the population’s genetic structure in streams targeted for suppression, and the relative number of spawning hybrid and rainbow trout captured at targeted sites.

More information on the proposed project is described in a draft environmental assessment, which is available online at https://fwp.mt.gov/news/public-notices or at any FWP office.

The public comment period will extend through Feb. 17, 2023. Interested parties should send comments and questions to Amber Steed, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 490 N. Meridian, Kalispell, MT 59901, or asteed@mt.gov.

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